Note: This story has been updated following a response from the developer.
When we first heard about Icarus at The PC Gaming Show in 2020, the survival game from Dean Hall and RocketWerkz was planned as a free-to-play title. Earlier this year, we began to suspect that the free-to-play plan may have changed—I asked about it during a play session with Hall in March and was essentially given a no comment in response.
It's official now: Icarus is not a free-to-play survival game. In a post on the Icarus Steam store page, a release date was announced—Icarus will launch on August 11—and the pricing plan was revealed. A new game mode called Outposts has also been announced, but we'll get to that in a minute.
The price of the first chapter of Icarus, First Cohort, is $30. A pre-order discount knocks 10% off that price.
That option is known as the 'standard edition.' The 'deluxe edition' gets a little more spicy, especially when it comes to the price.
The deluxe edition of Icarus costs a whopping $100 (again, pre-orders take 10% off), and contains First Cohort plus the next two DLC chapters, New Frontiers and Dangerous Horizons (which don't have a release date yet), plus a special environmental suit. But most surprisingly, this pricey edition also grants access to new game mode called "Outposts."
The announcement on the Icarus Steam page explains what outposts are, and how they arose from community feedback:
"Our community urged us to create a game mode that allowed them the freedom to collect resources, craft and build on Icarus without the pressure of time. So we did just that. Outposts are a 1km x 1km plot of land where you can do just about everything you normally would in our original game mode but without the threat of storms and enemy AI. You can zen out, test your architecture and crafting skills, and invite your friends to come and play with you."
That's gonna take a bit of unpacking. First, I know what the community envisioned—being able to build a permanent base right on the planet, on the same map you play the missions on, as opposed to building a base on a separate, much smaller slice of map that sounds almost like an instance. But as Dean Hall said in the Icarus Discord yesterday, Icarus is a session-based game and it wasn't built to support persistence—so this is something of a workaround. It might change in the future, too.
"Different maps, custom made for persistence. (For now anyway)," said Hall, answering a community member's question about how outposts work. "The existing terrains for Icarus are very specifically designed to be played in certain ways. So we didn’t want to just throw persistence into that."
Another issue is that I think people who wanted the option to build a permanent base with no mission timer probably still wanted storms and enemies. They don't mind toughing it out in adverse conditions, or fighting dangerous animals around their homestead, like in Valheim. I don't think players want zero pressure or threats while building, they just didn't want a ticking clock and they didn't want to lose their base when they left the planet and went back to orbit. Throw a few storms and angry bears my way, I say.
And my final thought: This is might not go over so well. Incorporating a popular community suggestion into a game can work out great. Making it inaccessible to the community members who suggested it unless they pay $100 for a deluxe version of the game? Not a great idea. My understanding is that you can visit a friend's outpost if they have the deluxe version of the game and you only have the standard version, which is nice, but I doubt it'll make anyone feel better about it.
I really hope this changes and I kinda suspect it will. Locking a community-suggested feature behind a $100 price tag is hard to justify, so I hope an outpost is included in the standard edition as well as the deluxe. I've reached out to RocketWerkz for more clarification and will update this story when I hear back.
Update: I have heard back from RocketWerkz, which states: "We are still investigating how [Outpost mode] will work exactly so we’ve only confirmed the details for deluxe edition."